Earlier this year, Capcom launched a fan-art driven costume contest for Street Fighter V. Artists across the globe were asked to imagine an alternate look for any of the 40 characters currently in the fighting game’s roster. Capcom selected 12 semifinalists and then opened up voting via social media engagements.
Inven Culture creator Matt Buchholtz had a conversation with Steven 'JnXC' La, whose “Untamable” Juri Han design received both votes and praise. From the Easter eggs they hid in their design to who they main, this interview is incredible for artists and gamers alike!
How long have you been creating art?
Kinda long… as a kid I'd be doodling SNES / Megadrive characters on whatever surfaces available. These ranged from Street Fighter characters doing signature moves to random Zelda (Link to the Past) doodles & “level designs.” I'd always find time to draw growing up, though. I never knew why I continued. Over time, it became less fun at the moment, and more like a puzzle that needed to be solved else, it’d keep me awake. These days, I find myself drawing art that's a little more on the curvy side...
How does art tie-in to your daily life?
Being a freelance artist, when I'm not drawing for others, I'm trying to draw for myself with side projects and studies where possible. Currently clearing my plate of commissions…
Your Juri Costume, “Untamable” recently won the Street Fighter V Costume Design Contest. What was it like hearing you were in the top 12?
Ah, hearing I made it to the finals was nice. I wasn't overly excited, as I thought “oh, that's nice but I won't win”.
From the beginning, your piece was in the lead. When did you feel like you were guaranteed to win?
Hmm, a long while after voting started, I woke up to a series of notifications 'JnXC not even awake', 'He underestimated the power of penis', 'It's 1st now! Got 1k likes' and all sorts. So, when I did come to (around 7 pm?), I went through group chats to catch up, and went about the day as usual; opened up a bunch of streams, and went back to drawing.
It wasn't until much later, when more people started talking to me about it, that I went to check out the contest, the reactions, what was being said and... I remember reading a bunch and just, from there, avoided it where possible.
I didn't properly check back till the last 24 hours, but friends will tell you I never thought I was going to win; I found myself repeating “I'm a nobody, no following, and can't do much to get votes so watching it was doing me no favors.” It was during the last day I thought, “Oh, I actually have likes, I might actually make top 2?” But always doubted my placement up till the last 30 minutes.
There was some amazing art submitted, what other costume designs did you see from the contest that you enjoyed?
I really liked NY Mobster Alex (in finals), Mech Alex, Secretary Poison, and just... There were so many!
You designed an outfit for Juri. What made you choose them over other characters?
Initially, I had a list I wanted to design for. It was Juri - Poison - Boxer - Cody - Laura. Juri, I like the character overall, the others I wanted to design for because of streamers &/or gameplay. I'm constantly tuning into Jammerz Streams, I knew he would have liked to see Poison in a cheongsam attire (a la SF4). I wanted to design a Boxer costume as I'm almost always in Brian_F's stream and so on.
The plan was to design a few for each, then try to get people to vote for which one to put through. However, a big commission had left me with only about a day or so, nowhere near as much time as I would have liked... so I rushed to get at least one done. I only had a few hours to spare, and gave up on making any more…
Tell us a bit about what you’re proud of in this design and some of the details within it.
At first, I was content with the fact that it had a story. I wanted a battle-worn costume; tattered/torn cloth and all. I managed to get elements from various Juri concepts in, the skull on the end of ribbons, the use of multiple belts & the spider emblem. I would then add Bison’s hat and Seth's Cloak as trophies to go with the story; those who order Juri around eventually fall to her. This led to the title, “Untamable.”
The tights and bra were also variations based on concepts I had on that board but simplified... a sports bra exposing some side boob, and mismatched tights as I tend to prefer asymmetrical designs (as seen on my old twitter banner as well I believe, lol). I’m sure I also made the emblem on the hat a spider, and in the Dictator color variant, it reverts back to a Shadowloo emblem. If I had more time, I would have changed some elements.
When you play Street Fighter V, who is your main?
I mainly play Necalli but also enjoy using Ryu & Alex; I have a love/hate relationship with Juri and have been trying hard to get comfortable with her since release but keep falling back to Necalli…
The fighting game fan-art community is very passionate and dedicated. What makes you love and create around fighting games?
I think, at least to me, it’s more about sharing when it comes to creating such pieces. Trying to express or convey feelings/emotions in a way where words probably just don't feel like it's enough. At times it feels like a ‘thank you’ to everyone involved in making these games, and to the people who support and get involved to make the experiences.
You’re not only a champion of art, but also gaming, having won tournaments for Dissidia FFNT and Street Fighter V. What similarities do you find in the disciplines of creating art and playing fighting games?
Oh, lol, I got lucky, those don't count. But I would like to think attitude, having the right mind-set and approach helps a lot; it's a lot like... problem-solving. You hit a wall, hit the lab, and find a solution and keep at it till the next hurdle. ‘The harder the battle, the sweeter the victory’ – I think it was.
Do you consider art or gaming a better escape when you need to unwind?
Gaming, probably, because a huge portion of my every day is dedicated to producing art, leaving little room for games. So with that, I can only get my fill from lurking in various streams…sad.
HienKong recently created celebration artworks of all the top art from the Costume Design Contest. How did you feel about their pixel-art tribute?
Oh? It was nice of him, I had no idea what it was all about until someone linked me to it, since I've been avoiding things around the contest.
If you could design a look/costume for any character in any game, who would it be for? Why?
Oh my, there's a lot, but currently, there's two I'd love to get involved with.
ShiftUp’s Destiny Child (or Project Nikke) as I've been chasing after Kim Hyung Tae's style and level of work for the longest time.
Eiyuden Chronicles: Hundred Heroes (Rabbit & Bear Studios) - Recently had a really successful Kickstarter. I managed to set aside time to make a thank you piece as I'm a fan of the Suikoden games (1 & 2) & this being the spiritual successor... Yeah, I had to get my thanks across.
If you could give one tip to artists who are looking to improve their art, what would it be?
Check out Feng Zhu Design's Youtube channel. I've been following and learning from his material since the days he had a website called http://artbyfeng.com back in 2005/2006; buying the same mechanical pencils and all thinking it'd help. But really, if you've already messed around in art and want to take it to the next level, I usually direct people to his channel and work on fundamentals, absorb as much from his content where possible, been a huge help to me.
We’d like to thank JnXC for taking the time to chat about their design, their art, and their love of gaming. Their humble nature and sharp insight made this interview a pleasure, and we look forward to seeing new art from them (follow them on Twitter!) as well as picking up their “Untamable” costume when it is released for Street Fighter V in the future!
You can find more about Inven culture here.